Tippling Club

Posted on June 21, 2009 by Aun

I might actually be among the last foodies, and food bloggers, in town to try Tippling Club. While I’ve known about this ultra-modern gastrobar since it opened a year ago, my darling wife S and I had not, until recently, been inspired to visit this somewhat controversial restaurant. I say “controversial” because any time that it came up in conversation among foodie friends, spirited debates would inevitably ensue. Some friends argued that the food was self-indulgent, far too expensive for what it was, and that the structure in which the restaurant is housed is little more than an air conditioned lean-to. Other friends said that Chef Ryan Clift, formerly of Melbourne’s Vue du Monde, was one of the most talented chefs working in Singapore today. They held fast that while the food had its highs and lows, the highs were higher than those of any other chef in town.

The one thing that all of my friends did agree on was that the combined food and cocktail menu was a little too expensive and not really necessary. Yes, we all appreciate the hard work and skill put in by award-winning mixologist Matthew Bax, the other luminary sharing centre stage with Chef Ryan. And I, especially, love a fabulously well-made cocktail as an apertif or digestif, i.e. before or after my meal. But we all agreed that we’d like to eat our food paired with nothing more than a nice bottle of wine or two — and not with a different cocktail paired with each and every course.

Recently, S and I decided it was high time we tried Tippling Club. To be honest, the venue was suggested by a friend we were hosting to lunch. But we thought it was a grand idea. The venue, to my surprise, was much more than the “gussied-up shed” that some friends had complained about. I’ve always been a fan of somewhat industrial spaces and I have to say, I really like the pared-down, almost temporary but still chic design of the restaurant. Most of the seats are placed around a large counter, which provide fabulous views of the front half of the open kitchen. There are a few small tables strewn around the room, but I think to really appreciate Tippling Club, seats at the bar are de rigueur.

I have to also say, the food was more deftly and smartly prepared, and much less experimental than I thought it would be. Because of reviews I had read and feedback from friends, I went to lunch fearing a feast of foam and chemical gels, which would leave me hungry, poor and uninspired. Instead, Chef Ryan produced a menu that S and I found charming, well thought-out and extremely well cooked. It was, in sum, pretty damned delicious.

We started our meal with what I have learnt is the restaurant’s current standard amuse-bouche: Carbonated “bourbon” grapes; fried calamari rings with a curly straw filled with a basil emulsion that tasted like a green curry sauce; and char-grilled green peppers served with a miso soy foam (dip) (pictured at the top of the blog). The grapes were fun. The squid and sauce a pleasurable mouthful. And the peppers and dip (when you learnt not to use too much of the very savoury foam) were delicious and also fun.

Having fun is an often over-looked part of fine dining. And something more restaurants and chefs should revisit when planning menus and coming up with new dishes. One of the great hallmarks of Thomas Keller’s (of French Laundry and Per Se fame) cuisine is that it is both technically perfect but also whimsical. His food is fun. And eating it often makes you smile or laugh. While Chef Ryan has a few more years to go before I’d say he’s the equivalent of a Keller, I would say he’s one of the few chefs in town who is able to inject a similar sense of fun into his superbly executed food.

Our first course was Chef’s 62 degrees Celsius egg, served with dried bacon, parmesan, tomato and garlic bread. It was a lovely, humourous and delicious dish. Unfortunately I could not get a good picture of it (I should say that all of the pix in this post were taken with my Nokia e71 — I had forgotten to pack a proper camera). Next was Surf Clam Dashi, with basil seed, cucumber and dashi broth. I loved this dish. It was really beautiful. And it tasted great. The clams and the thin slices of raw scallop were super-fresh and the various flavours of the dish came through marvelously.

For our Foie Gras course, Chef Ryan asked if we wanted to try a dish he was still testing out. We readily agreed. It was a foie gras mousse cylinder, inside of which was a tart red cherry coulis. This was served with gingerbread crumbs and an edible “instant sponge”. I loved watching the dark red cherry sauce ooze out of the foie gras when I cut into it. I also really liked the contrast of sweet and salty in this dish as well as the contrast of textures.

Next was a small piece of roasted pork belly (my favourite cut of my favourite meat), served with roasted scallops, braised walnuts, grapes and spiced pumpkin. The pork belly, which was fork tender, was topped with a crispy popcorn crust. The only not-so-perfect part of this dish was the scallops, cooked just a tad more than I like (I like my scallops rare).

Dessert looked simple but was deceptively complex. On the plate was a thin, snake-like twist of chocolate mousse, dehydrated coconut, chocolate dirt, crushed peanuts, candied coconut and coconut sorbet. It was a very interesting dessert. S declared, “This is just the right amount of chocolate mousse that any dessert should have.”

At S$125 per person for this 6 course menu, a meal at Tippling Club will certainly be outside of the reach of many Singaporeans. Bear in mind that the 6 course menu is also (outside of the set lunch which didn’t seem worth ordering) the smallest of the tasting menus on offer. There are also 11 course and 17 course degustations available. All menus come with the option of paired cocktails, at a hefty surcharge. That said, S and I had a great time at Tippling Club and left fans of Chef Ryan. It’s a fun restaurant with brilliantly executed, fun food. Which makes it perfect for couples looking for a laid-back and yet exciting, chic gastronomic night out on the town. We’ve already decided that we’re going back for a “date night” whenever Chef Ryan launches his next menu.

Tippling Club
8D Dempsey Road
Singapore 249672
Tel: 6475 2217

About Aun Koh

Aun has always loved food and travel, passions passed down to him from his parents. This foundation, plus a background in media, pushed him to start Chubby Hubby in 2005. He loves that this site allows him to write about the things he adores--food, style, travel, his wife and his bouncing baby boy!

What Others Are Saying

  1. OysterCulture June 21, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    The pictures are amazing, and by your descriptions, I can only imagine what an wonderful tasting experience it was. Thanks for sharing. By the sounds of it, it reminds me a bit of COI here in San Francisco.

  2. Elisa June 22, 2009 at 12:01 am

    I really like those countless bottles hanging in the air. So cool!
    Food looks interesting too.

  3. Alex June 22, 2009 at 3:24 am

    Wow, nice dinner! I think I would have loved it! Next time I go to KL, I’ll have dinner there! thanks for reporting and greetings from Germany! Alex

  4. darbi June 22, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    Wow the pictures look beautiful. I would not have guessed that you took it with a cellphone! Did you apply any photoshop magic to them?

  5. Emma June 22, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    A great review on the Tippling Club! I had a wonderful lunch there a couple of months back and was starting to think that I was one of the few who thought the food was fun and fab. I can only afford the set lunches though :-)

  6. UR little cousin in SD June 27, 2009 at 10:14 am

    Sounds like a great restaurant to try out when we’re back in S’pore … … next week =)

  7. Natty June 29, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    Wowee! What a fun night. What’s going on with all those liquor bottles tied to the roof rack?

  8. MC July 1, 2009 at 11:39 pm

    It looks absolutely fantastic – spectacular composition and design. Just beautiful.

    It’s hard to judge without having taste it though. But it sounds like you appreciated the food so for your experience, it was worth it, right?

    But I have to admit – even if I had the money to pay for that kind of meal, I’m not sure I’d really want to.

  9. flory July 6, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    ohgoodnessthatlooksfabulous. i’d love to be able to make food like that.

  10. LoveFeast Table July 6, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    This looks like a fun night out! And I have to agree…I love the suspended bottles! Very cool!

  11. gobsmack'd July 7, 2009 at 3:31 am

    I am a tad disappointed in Matt Bax and those bottles trick. He’s repeating himself, namely with the trick already done at Melbourne’s Der Raum. Having said that, he is my favourite mixologist of all time. Bar none. Pun intended!

  12. Sui Lin July 8, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    i have to say the Foie Gras course looks exactly like the one i had in vue de monde except that it was made to look of more of a cigar with ashes….

  13. superwilson July 10, 2009 at 1:09 am

    My first visit here. I’m taken off by the amazing pictures. Great stuffs!

  14. msihua July 16, 2009 at 10:38 am

    Oh gosh.. that’s fabulous…. How much did the whole thing cost?

    I must try that the next time I’m down in Sg… *sigh*

  15. trading in china July 16, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    It looks like a really fun and funky place to eat. I will check it out next time I am in town if I can get in!

  16. msihua July 17, 2009 at 8:04 am

    Ooops… my bad.. I didn’t realise the price was already stated at the end of the post =)

  17. Miakoda July 17, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    I love the playfulness of all the dishes, especially the dessert :)

  18. Extreme July 31, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    Yeah.. had dinner there with my Oxford/MIT friend. Initially, I tot I was eating some animal you know what… but taste good though. Creative!

  19. Michael Booth August 14, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    Your post really interested me as I often have the same arguments/discussions about ‘molecular gastronomy’ with foodie friends. Personally, I like a bit of whimsy in a restaurant and love to eat stuff I wouldn’t/couldn’t cook at home and, I have to say, if you have ever worked in a really good professional kitchen you wouldn’t argue about the cost of the food in similar places as a diner – they really work their guts out! Back in June I posted about a fairly wacky, but I think also wonderful, restaurant in Tokyo you might know about – the Molecular Tapas Bar – which raised similar questions.

  20. Spec September 11, 2009 at 11:35 am

    The comment in the original post about the food being self-indulgent really struck a chord with me. I’ve never been to Tippling Club but I have had the opportunity to try Vue de Monde and that is what occurred to me there as well. There is no doubt VdM uses premium ingredients and serves food that is playful, creative and plated well. Unfortunately, my overall impression was that the dishes were generally not very well balanced and not as tasty as one would expect at that price. If this is what’s common to the two restaurants it sounds like I would be well-advised to give Tippling Club a miss. Comments thus far have been positive though, I would love to hear the other side of the “spirited debate”.

  21. Deborah September 11, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    I’ve been to the Tippling twice now and I have to say, both experiences were fantastic. I use the word experience because in essence. that is what Tipplin is about. From the minute you order a drink, that is carefully served in the most thought out of presentations and concoctions, to the time your orders are brought out, everything is part of an inspiring adventure. The food was delicious, but you must be open to different tastes and smells, and let your senses lead you. Altogether a rather expensive but pleasurable time. Go for a special occasion. It’s worth every penny.

  22. yujin choi March 26, 2010 at 8:53 am

    Tippling club is our favorite restaurant in Singapore so far~^^

    everytime we go there He shows me a new world of food..^^

    by the way, I love the photo of yours.. and
    wondering how did you take it.. because they won’t allow me to take…haha

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